The Hypocrisy of the Religious Right and the Death Penalty

Commentary by Jim Walker, 04 Feb. 1998


In spite of Pat Robertson's and Jerry Falwell's prayers to save the life of the born-again Karla Faye Tucker, their pleas went unanswered. Tucker died by lethal injection yesterday at 6:45 p.m. according to Texas law. This just gives further evidence, accumulated upon millions of other failed attempts, that prayer simply does not work.

I find it embarrassingly hypocritical that the Christians who prayed for Tucker's life should feel so saddened and mournful. If, indeed, Christians actually believed in an everlasting heaven, then shouldn't they feel joyful, if not envious, that their newly converted born-again killer now lives beside their alleged savior, Jesus Christ in heaven? Would they have us believe that they prefer, instead, to have Tucker live out her life rotting in jail, living in the sinful and depraved world of mankind? Are Christians actually this cruel?

Texas governor George W. Bush also showed his hypocrisy (also a Christian) when he absolved himself from his decision by declaring "I have concluded judgment about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority." This smacks to me the same reasoning that inquisitors used when torturing and killing heretics and letting God decide their final outcome, not to mention the ancient cry of Arnald-Amalric, "Kill them all, God will recognize his own."

Last night, just minutes before the execution, Jerry Falwell talked on CNN about his saddened feelings for Karla Faye Tucker. He embarrassed himself further by showing his ignorance of her. He asked the CNN reporter what race she was a member of! After learning that she was Caucasian, he then offered that, of course, race has no importance here. Then why in your heaven's name, Mr. Falwell, did you ask about race in the first place?

Not only did Falwell reveal his racism, but he showed his ignorance of Tucker's alleged conversion. Falwell, apparently had not only never met Tucker, but had never even seen her on taped interviews. His information could only have come from secondary sources.

Does this represent the kind of decision making by Christian leaders? What should they have us accept for future killers who claim to have converted to Christianity? Can you imagine the consequences of law if we let Right-wing Christians decide justice? I can see it now: convicted prisoners learning the craft of acting, especially in the expressions of sorrow and Christian-like expressions.

Regardless of Tucker's "real" conversion (how could one possibly know for sure?), what if she, instead, converted to Islam, with the honoring and praying to Allah? Would Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell feel as justified to have let her escape the death penalty? I doubt it.

Or better yet, what if Tucker had been a "black" man, with the same Christian-like expressions?

Although I do not condone the death penalty for any human, my reasons for saving Tucker do not remotely match those of the Religious Right. At best, their performance shows the hypocrisy deriving from Christian beliefs, and at worst, the cruelty and prejudice of their position.